How to Correct Credit Report Errors Yourself for Free

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You can correct credit report errors yourself for free. Since it’s hard work to keep a high credit score, it’s really a pain in the neck when somebody dings your credit by mistake.

And each credit ding will cost you lots of money. You’ll find it difficult to find a good job; you’ll pay higher interest for mortgage and credit loans; and your homeowner’s and auto insurance will be higher too.

The good news is, if someone reports something negative about your credit by mistake, they have to fix it.

That goes for both the reporting company and third-party information-reporting firms. The only bad news is that you have to clean up the mess even though someone else spilled the milk. Not to worry, you can fix credit report errors yourself quite easily.

Your first step is to write to the company. Send them copies of documents that prove they’ve made a mistake. Make sure your letter includes all the facts. Don’t vent. Just explain why you feel they’ve made a mistake and make it clear that you want them to correct the error. Also, tell them you want them to either fix the error or prove the negative report is accurate.

How do you know if someone’s made a false credit report against you? One way is to check your credit score often. Fortunately, you can now get a free credit score with no credit card charges or having to sign up for any “free trials.”

It’s a good idea to send them a copy of your credit report with the error highlighted. Send the letter certified and make sure you keep a copy of the letter and anything else you sent. The credit reporting company will usually look into your claim within 30 days.

They’ll also send copies of your claim to the company that is making the claim against you. They are required to respond back to the credit reporting company. If they end up agreeing that you are right and a mistake has been made, the company that made the error has to report the correction to all three nationwide credit reporting companies.

After the investigation is done, the credit reporting company has to give you its results in writing. Your next step is to tell the credit reporting company to send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. And you can direct them to send a corrected copy to everyone who received your credit report in connection with your employment.

What if the credit reporting company doesn’t see things your way?

Tell them to keep a statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports. You might have to pay for this, but you can also tell the credit reporting company to give your statement to anyone who got a copy of your report recently.

Don’t stop there.

Write to the information provider and tell them you are disputing an item. Again, make sure to include documentation.

From this point on, if the provider reports the item to a credit reporting company, it has to let them know you dispute it. And if they can’t prove the claim is true, they’ll be forced to clean up the mistake.

If they don’t, your options include suing them in small claims court and/or contacting the FTC .

Have you ever been in this kind of situation? How did you get the error fixed? Were the companies you dealt with reasonable or impossible to work with?

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Hollis Colquhoun May 11, 2010 at 8:04 AM

If you are disputing an item on your credit report, go to FTC.gov, download and print their dispute form. Once you have sent a letter with written proof of your claim that there is an error, the credit bureau has 30 days from when they receive your letter to send you back written proof that the item is accurate (or the debt is yours, etc.) otherwise they have to remove the entry from your report.

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